Talks between the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA) and the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) failed to produce a solution to the current deadlock in the Metal and Engineering Industry. NEASA, the largest employers’ organisation in South Africa with 23 000 employer members and also the largest employers’ organisation on the Metal and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council, representing approximately 3000 primarily small and medium size businesses, met with NUMSA on Friday, 4 July 2014 in bilateral negotiations in an attempt to find a resolution.
This meeting between NEASA and NUMSA followed talks between the federation SEIFSA and NUMSA on Thursday, 3 July 2014, where NUMSA rejected SEIFSA’s increased offer of 10% in respect of the lowest grades of employees.
At this meeting NEASA confirmed to NUMSA its current position; that any wage offer is subject to an agreement on the establishment of a reduced entry level wage – in respect of new entrees – and the adoption of measures to make the Industry more flexible – all in an attempt to revive the Industry.
‘It is however disappointing that NUMSA does not even want to discuss these issues. Without an agreement on these NEASA proposals, we simply cannot see our way open to offer any wage increases. NUMSA recently pointed out that the Metal Industry has lost 250 000 jobs during the last five years. The General Secretary of the Council also recently stated that the Council lost 750 000 jobs over a longer period,’ says Gerhard Papenfus, NEASA Chief Executive.
The importance of job creation and the establishment of flexible measures that will help the creation of jobs in South Africa are of extreme urgency to NEASA, but seems inconsequential to NUMSA through their demands and actions.
‘The Metal Industry is no longer competitive; we are not creating any new jobs. In this regard we are failing South Africa. This Industry is in the process of decline and will eventually be destroyed unless we considerably adapt the current Industry wage model. Products which used to be manufactured in South Africa are now manufactured elsewhere. We are exporting jobs. Merely giving a high increase without addressing the fundamental reasons inhibiting growth and employment, will be irresponsible,’ Papenfus said.
The Metal Industry and South Africa face extremely difficult challenges. On the one hand there are workers who struggle to make ends meet and on the other hand SMME’s simply cannot meet workers’ wage expectations. There are also ideological differences relating to the manner in which to narrow the inequality gap, how to create employment and eradicate poverty. If NUMSA continues muscling employers into deals which they cannot afford, the decline and eventual destruction of the Industry will be expedited.
“Unless we find ways to break the chains on this Industry, as NEASA is proposing, the future of manufacturing in South Africa is bleak. We will not be party to any agreement responsible for the further destruction of the Industry”, Papenfus said.
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